Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne has said that the Department of Education must ramp up contingency planning in anticipation of disruption caused by measures introduced to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Deputy Byrne said, “There has understandably been a high level of concern about the ongoing spread of COVID-19. While this concern is and remains valid, it has not been helped in recent days by the spread of rumours across social media and WhatsApp groups.

“I sought a meeting with very senior officials in the Department of Education as a result of the misinformation which was being circulated. The Department have told me that they are following public health advice and at this time there is no plan for large scale closures.

“That said, it may be the case that there will be considerable disruption to the education system in the coming weeks as has occurred in other jurisdictions and in the third level sector. I impressed upon them the need to plan for this.

“For students undertaking exams this year in particular, this disruption could be a cause of considerable pressure. For example, oral exams are due to take place in the coming weeks. Preparations should begin now to provide pupils with additional supports so that they can continue their education, both in schools and in Higher Education.

“While I hope that serious disruption will not take place, it is important that plans are put in place well ahead of time,” he concluded.